A vintage crime: Dom Perignon conman's 100,000-bottle fraud

Turkish folk singer conned French vineyards then sold wine to London restaurants

The modest restaurants of Britain's Turkish community would not appear to have much in common with the Michelin-starred establishments owned by the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal. But unknown to them and their customers, and thanks to the shady dealings of a conman named Dogan Arslan, their wine lists could be of a similar calibre.

For 10 months, Arslan carried out a scam which has flooded Turkish tavernas with vintages that are usually reserved for connoisseurs dining in much more salubrious settings. Between January and October 2007, the 40-year-old Turkish folk singer conned French vineyards out of hundreds of thousands of bottles of wine – making more than £1m in the process.

He would then sell the wine, much of which had a retail value of £200 a bottle, for just £60 a case to shops and restaurants in the Turkish community in London and the South-east. He was jailed for four-and-a-half years last week after a police raid found 37,000 bottles of wine in a warehouse. Detectives believe Arslan managed to sell more than 100,000 bottles of wine during his 10-month fraud. But he kept the most expensive for himself; at his flat in Wood Green, north London, police found bottles of £800 Dom Perignon 64.

DS Paul Cheadle, of Haringey CID, said: "The most shocking moment of this investigation came when we worked out that he was making about £17,000 per day, tax free. That's more than most Premiership footballers. In a lot of cases Arslan was conning modest farmers out of huge sums of money."

Arslan would contact a vineyard pretending to be the wine-buyer at a plush London hotel and order a vast amount of expensive wine. He would then have it delivered to his warehouse in Markfield Road, Tottenham. He would use the names of high-profile hotels and their employees. His favoured tactic was to pretend to be the finance director at the £3,000-a-night Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in Knightsbridge. He would then send a fax on headed paper – made by taking the company's logo from its website – and change the contact details to his own mobile phone number.

He would pay for the wine – including Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Pomerol and St Emilion Grand Cru – using cheques which would bounce. He was able to get away with it for so long because vineyards are paid 30 days after delivery. In all he is known to have defrauded 14 producers in France, but police say he probably conned more.

Detectives only became aware of the fraud in August 2007 after being contacted by staff at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel, who had become suspicious after a vineyard owner called them to ask about their recent order – one which they had not made. The order related to a £50,000 purchase of 7,200 bottles of wine. The police contacted the vineyard owner and delivery driver and were taken to the warehouse expecting to find six pallets of wine. What they found was 78 pallets with 37,000 bottles.

After Arslan was arrested police found an invoice booklet in his car which showed his "transactions" for two of the 10 months. In 60 days he had made more than £1m selling hundreds of thousands of bottles of expensive wine at a fraction of the price. DS Cheadle added: "Because of the vast quantity and the fact that he refuses to admit to this we will probably never know where all this wine ended up. The likelihood is that he sold it to restaurants and shops in the Turkish communities in London and the South-east. But I have no evidence to suggest that is the case, so it's highly probable that these restaurants are selling £200 wine as cheap house wine and nobody realises."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future